Data Science Degree Programs in Minnesota
It’s been almost 10 years since data science was coined the “sexiest job of the 21st Century,” and the demand for highly qualified data scientists is still going strong. While a variety of MOOCs and data science boot camps quickly sprung up to meet the demand, academic institutions and non-tech enterprises (e.g., their services and/or products require essential tech infrastructure, but they are not “tech companies”) are only now embracing the ongoing trend.
Now, Silicon Valley and New York City aren’t the only places within the U.S. where data science jobs (specifically), and tech jobs (in general) are on the rise. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota now employs over 100,000 computer and math professionals. The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is the home of major industry leaders such as Target, General Mills, Best Buy, Ameriprise Financial, the Mayo Clinic, and UnitedHealth Group. Along with agriculture, tourism and the engineering, research and development, and testing services sectors are the most prominent industries within the state.
For those of you who don’t mind snow in the winter and a relatively mild summer (the temperature average in August is 80 degrees Fahrenheit), Minnesota is a promising opportunity for both data science academics and career seekers.
Career Outlook for Data Scientists in Minnesota
As previously mentioned, Minnesota houses several of the largest U.S. companies who frequently advertise a need for data scientists. The healthcare industry, including UnitedHealth Group, has particular urgency in leveraging the machine learning expertise that most — if not all — employers expect from their data scientists. The push for value-based care which incorporates understanding the patients’ health care experience and their health outcomes is increasing.
Moreover, the extremely high cost of medical care, heavy regulatory compliance, and a new influx of different data types (e.g., fitness trackers, medical devices, and social media) are presenting health care organizations with an ever-expanding analytic complexity. Not all data is good data, and the world of health care desperately needs help in parsing through and precisely utilizing valuable vs. non-value added data.
Regarding data science salaries, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean salary for a data scientist in Minnesota is $106,130 annually or $51.03 hourly as of May 2021. Additionally, should you have your sights set on a major metropolitan area such as Minneapolis–St. Paul– Bloomington, be prepared for a higher cost of living that outpaces the U.S. average by roughly 16%. As can be expected, the aforementioned average compensation and cost of living will vary depending on the Minnesota city you choose (or the one that chooses you via an employer offering you a job).
Summarily, there are data science jobs in Minnesota and they tend to pay quite well. The tradeoff may be that you’ll be spending more on rent or to purchase a home when compared to other lower cost U.S. states.
On-Campus Undergraduate Data Science Programs in Minnesota
Minnesota residents do have some choices when it comes to studying data science at the undergraduate level. Winona State University offers a B.S. in Data Science and boasts that it is “the first undergraduate program in Data Science in the Upper Midwest.” Through the University’s Mathematics and Statistics Department, students will take classes within two main knowledge areas: Analytical Knowledge and Computational Knowledge. Students will be expected to complete courses in Intro to Data Science, Regression Analysis, Calculus I, and Algorithms and Problem Solving — in addition to 12 credits of interdisciplinary coursework (e.g. biology, economics, physics, etc.).
Alternatively, Saint Paul College — a Community and Technical College located in Saint Paul — has put together a Data Science Associates Degree with a variety of options in terms of instructional delivery: online, on-campus, and hybrid courses. Community Colleges are usually less expensive than universities and provide a more feasible financial consideration for completing your essential undergraduate coursework along with a minor degree in data science. During this two-year program (if you’re attending full time), you’ll take introductory classes in Data Science, Computer Science and Information Systems, Statistics, and Calculus. Java Programming is included as a required course; however, Java isn’t not a frequently used language in data science (at least, not at this time).
On-Campus Graduate Data Science Programs in Minnesota
As we move up the academic scale, there are more data science-oriented graduate degree programs available for aspiring data scientists in Minnesota. Do you absolutely need the degree to be in data science? No. If you peruse data science job listings in any U.S. city, you’ll quickly discover that either the preferred or mandatory academic qualifications only specify a STEM degree, usually in math, engineering, computer science, statistics or a related discipline.
Despite being roughly 10 years old — if we date the official launch of data science to the Harvard Business Review article referenced in the introduction — all industries are still figuring out how to define the who, what, when, how, where, and why of data science. Some continue to conflate data scientists with data analysts or data engineers. As a result, you can find an increasing number of articles and social media posts where currently employed data scientists are lamenting the mismatch between the data science title and the actual daily work. This too may change throughout the data science evolutionary process.
Other non-data science specific degrees (e.g., statistics, computer science, and some job postings even list economics as an acceptable qualification) may yield you more opportunities for employment should the data science craze suddenly shift into a different job title.
On-Campus Data Science Master’s Degree Programs in Minnesota
The University of Minnesota’s on-campus Master’s Degree in Data Science is a 2-year program (full time) located in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. They’ve separated the knowledge areas into three tracks: Statistics, Algorithms, and Infrastructure and Large Scale Computing. After the 18 required credits from the three tracks, students will complete Elective, Capstone, and Colloquium credits. However, your education plan may differ slightly if you and your advisor agree on an alternate approach.
One of the outstanding benefits of attending this program is the comprehensive course selection where students will take coursework in machine learning, advanced statistics (e.g., Bayesian Decision Theory, Theory of Statistics, Statistical Methods for Correlated Data, etc.), and Big Data Engineering and Analytics. Should you choose to pursue a different Master’s of Science or a Ph.D. degree path, you can declare data science as a minor which requires just 12 credits, 9 from the three knowledge tracks and one elective.
On-Campus Data Science Graduate Certificates in Minnesota
Alternatively, The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities has an on-campus Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Data Science option. Similar to the Minor in Data Science, students will complete 12 credits minimum, which must include at least one course from each track: statistics, algorithms, and infrastructure. This would be a great choice for students who aren’t quite sure that they want to commit to data science graduate studies. A bachelor’s degree in a STEM field (you’ll see this as a repeated requirement for both universities and employers) is required for admission consideration, but there is a slight preference for computer science, engineering, and statistics majors. GRE scores are not required.
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Minnesota
Ph.D. programs for data science are harder to find no matter which U.S. state is under consideration. At this time, most data scientists with a Ph.D. have earned it in a different discipline, some directly related to STEM, but not all. Since research design and implementation is a common objective regardless of the Ph.D. program, those who hold a non-STEM Ph.D. may also be considered if they have all of the other requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities for data science.
While Minnesota universities have a plethora of degrees and graduate certificate programs, this is not the case for Ph.D. level academics. Here, again, The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities dominates data science education. Their Ph.D. in Health Informatics has a Data Science and Informatics for Learning track. Students who choose this track should be aware that the department expects for them to complete the Master’s in Data Science as one of the critical paths to completing the Ph.D. In other words, by the end of the 5 to 7-year Ph.D. program, you’ll have a Ph.D. in Health Informatics and a Master’s of Science in Data Science.
Online Data Science Degree Programs in Minnesota
Up until now, private for profit institutions led the way for online education. Traditional not-for-profit universities are now offering a wider selection of online degrees for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. There is still some lag in the data science degree selection for all academic classifications. The main data science-ish online undergraduate degrees will generally center on computer science, information, technology, and math (though this isn’t as widespread).
Online Data Science Bachelor’s Degrees in Minnesota
Concordia University in St. Paul has designed their Bachelor’s in Computer Science coursework to operate in 7-week cycles. After completing between 45 and 60 general education credits, students will embark on an academic journey through Discrete Mathematics, Database Design, Software Engineering, and Data Structures and Algorithms. The upside of majoring in computer science is that this undergraduate degree is highly flexible and applicable to non-data science, but still heavily technical, jobs. If, for some reason, you find that data science isn’t the “career fit” that you were envisioning a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science can be leveraged towards other career trajectories: software engineer, data engineer, systems administrator, enterprise data architect, consulting — the alternatives are only as limited as your desire to reap the benefits of the time and money you spent to attain the degree.
Online Data Science Master’s Degrees in Minnesota
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota online Master’s of Science in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics will prepare you for a data science career via their two-year, 36 credit program. You’ll complete courses in Business Statistics, Data Analysis and Business Modeling, and Data Mining for Decision Making (among many others).
Throughout all of the readily available data science literature — blogs, articles, social media threads — very little is discussed regarding the business knowledge and skills that are one of the three pillars of data science. In these writings, the emphasis is usually on programming and math/statistics skills. Certainly, if you are an excellent statistician and programmer, you can learn the business side of data science on the job. But, more often than not, you’ll need to build a case as to why the company should set aside money for your data science projects (granted, large tech companies tend to have such reserves for data science “sandboxing”).
You’ll also likely be required to communicate with stakeholders who have no idea what “feature selection” and most will not need to know the mathematical reasoning behind your algorithm selection. However, they will want to understand how what you’re doing is benefitting them (and the company). Thus, business intelligence, building a business case, and aligning your data science project with the business objectives and customer demands are important — but overlooked — aspects of being a data scientist. A Master’s Degree in Data Analytics, Business Intelligence or both will give you a well-rounded skill set for data science.
Online Data Science Graduate Certificates in Minnesota
The online Business Analytics Certificate from the University of St. Thomas is a short, 12 unit program that includes Statistical Methods for Decision Making, Spreadsheet Modeling and Data Visualization, Applied Advanced Business Statistics, and an elective course (either Marketing Analytics or Health Care Analytics). Since there are currently no online data science graduate certificates available through Minnesota universities, this would be the option most closely aligned with data science.
Online Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Minnesota
As is frequently the case, there are no online Ph.D. programs available for data science in Minnesota. Consequently, if you’re seeking an online Ph.D. in Data Science program, you’ll find that most of the other out of state options will likely be computer science, information systems or health informatics.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for data scientists reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.